Understanding interactions between climate change, arable crop growth and disease epidemics

Lead Research Organisation: Rothamsted Research
Department Name: Unlisted


The main objectives of this project are:

1. To investigate effects of climate change on range and severity of crop disease epidemics. Weather-based disease forecast and crop growth models will be combined with climate change models, in collaboration with Mikhail Semenov (MCB Centre). Initially work will be done with fusarium ear blight of wheat and phoma stem canker and light leaf spot of oilseed rape. Long-term data sets, comprising disease, crop and weather data for different sites (distributed over the UK) and seasons (preferably at least 15 years), will be collated. These data will be used to validate and improve existing models. To make predictions, these models will then be combined with simulated data based on Met Office climate change scenarios. The predicted range and severity of epidemics will be illustrated in map format (as contour plots).

2. To consider disease control in relation to climate change adaptation and climate change mitigation. Work on adaptation will focus on two aspects: (i) temperature sensitivity of genes for resistance to pathogens, such as Leptosphaeria maculans (phoma canker) and (ii) changes in the timing of spore release due to climate change and synchronisation of inoculum with susceptible or sensitive crop growth stages (e.g. ergot and fusarium ear blight). Work on mitigation will estimate benefits of disease control in arable crops in relation to climate change mitigation (especially decreased greenhouse gas emissions per tonne of crop produced), using specific examples.


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Madgwick J (2011) Impacts of climate change on wheat anthesis and fusarium ear blight in the UK in European Journal of Plant Pathology